One of the most popular items on the menu of the Le Tigre food truck is shao bing. The Chinese flaky pastry is typically filled with sweet red bean paste, but co-owner and chef Clement Chan serves a savoury version—stuffed with slow-braised beef, pickled cabbage, cilantro, and a spicy Szechuan sauce. It’s one of several recipes Chan learned while helping out at his family’s Vancouver restaurant as a teenager.
“In the 1980s, my grandmother had a Shanghainese restaurant on Main Street, and when I was 16, I started bussing for her, and that’s where my interest in cooking started,” he tells the Georgia Straight during an interview at the Mount Pleasant commissary where Le Tigre is based. “I’d come in earlier for my shift or stay later to help her make handmade dumplings, and in my second year of college, I decided to drop out and go to culinary school.”
Chan attended the culinary arts program at Vancouver Community College. While his parents hoped he would study Asian cuisine so that he could take over the family business, Chan was more interested in learning French techniques. After graduation, he worked at nearly a dozen restaurants over the course of a decade—including the now-closed Lumière, Raincity Grill, and Chambar—before competing on the third season of Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada in 2012.
“It was really interesting because it’s one thing when you watch TV and you think, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ ” he recalls. “When you’re on the show and under the gun, it’s a totally different game.”
Chan ultimately lost to fellow B.C. competitor Matthew Stowe and returned to Vancouver to launch Le Tigre with business partner and chef Steve Kuan. The pair describe the food truck’s menu as “modern Asian cuisine”. Chan says this gives him leeway to take inspiration from many different cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese. Dishes range from beet fries served with togarashi mayo to crispy fried rice and kimchi squares to fried chicken with nam jin sauce.
When Chan is cooking at home, however, he prefers to stick with North American and European classics. He makes roast chicken about once a week, though he says it’s a dish that many people are intimidated by and have trouble cooking. Chan recommends brining the chicken for at least six hours before cooking to flavour the meat and seal in moisture. He also advises trussing the chicken, a step that some find tricky and skip.
“It takes practice, but trussing the chicken gives you even cooking, otherwise the legs tend to flop and the wings burn,” Chan says.
Clement Chan’s roast chicken
4 cups (1 L) water
1 cup (250 mL) table salt
¼ cup (60 mL) sugar
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 Tbsp (30 mL) black peppercorns
2 lemons, quartered
1 whole chicken (about 3 lb [1.4 kg])
- Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a large pot, and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 1 minute, stirring continuously to dissolve the salt, then remove pot from heat. Allow liquid to cool completely at room temperature.
- Brine the chicken by filling a sealable, food-safe bag or large container with the liquid. Submerge the chicken, seal the bag or cover the container with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
- Remove the chicken from brine, discard the liquid, and place chicken on a cutting board. Pat dry using paper towels. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
- To truss the chicken, place it breast side up with the legs pointing towards you. Tuck the wings under the chicken. Centre about a metre of butcher twine beneath the neck and bring the ends of the string up over the breast towards you, crossing the string and tying a knot under the breastbone. Loop the string around the ends of the drumsticks, tying them together securely. Cut off any excess string. Allow chicken to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before roasting.
- Preheat oven to 475° F (240° C).
- Transfer the chicken breast side up onto a roasting pan or baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes before lowering oven temperature to 350° F (180° C). Bake for 40 more minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes for even browning, until the juices run clear and the meat reaches an internal temperature of at least 155° F (68° C) when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
- Remove from oven and let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Yield: 4 main-size servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.